The Royal Mail has done some expert trolling this week by announcing plans to release a set of Dad’s Army stamps. “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” and “We’re all doomed!” might be just the kind of nostalgic messages being whispered within the government but ministers are keen not to let the good news spread to members of the general public. Careless talk costs lives and all that.
There was some good news for the Brexit department. The Royal Mail stopped short of superimposing the heads of ministers on those of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard. David Davis is the perfect Captain Mainwaring. All mouth and no trousers, the perfect leader for any disorganised retreat: the bank manager capable of mis-selling himself his own pension.
Then there’s Steve Baker, the spivvy Private Walker. A man to flog the country a dodgy Brexit straight off the back of a lorry. Preferably one parked up on the M2 outside Dover. Robin Walker, the very essence of Private Pike. Nice but dim. Too stupid to appreciate the irony in his constant repetition of Brexit Britain wanting “the brightest and the best”. If that was really the case, Walker wouldn’t have a job.
Suella Braverman is slightly more of a problem. There weren’t many women in Dad’s Army and she would be an unlikely contender to be Pike’s mother. But with a stretch of the imagination she could pass for Private Godfrey. Someone whose grasp on reality is increasingly slim and who largely exists in a private fantasy world where people losing their jobs is a price worth paying for the One True Brexit.
It was Walker – the spiv rather than the Robin – who got Brexit questions in the Commons under way in characteristic fashion. Britain had an unwavering commitment to workers’ rights, he said, but if it turned out that those commitments weren’t quite as unwavering as he promised then it was just one of those things. This was music to the ears of Tory Brexiters who have been getting a bit twitchy in recent weeks. David TC Davies jumped up to check that we would still be able to tell the EU to sod off. The spiv was happy to confirm it wouldn’t be just the EU we would tell to sod off. It would be the whole world.
Next over the top were Privates Pike and Godfrey. Pike was happy to confirm that making up policy in real time during the debate on the meaningful vote earlier in the week was precisely the sort of tactic that struck fear into the enemy. If we didn’t know what we were doing then there was little chance of the EU second-guessing us. Godfrey went one further by refusing to recognise anything she didn’t like. Her own department’s best-case scenario indicating that Scotland would be 2.9% worse off after Brexit was just wrong. The foreign secretary’s remarks that the Brexit negotiations were a mess were unpatriotic.
Deep divisions in the cabinet over Brexit have been exposed in a secret recording of a speech Boris Johnson gave to the Conservative Way Forward group. Here are his most contentious comments on ...
“Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard … There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”
Meltdown over Brexit
“You’ve got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK? I don’t want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It’s going to be all right in the end.”
“The inner struggle is very, very difficult. The Treasury, which is basically the heart of remain, has seized the risk — what they don’t want is friction at the borders. They don’t want any disruption. So they’re sacrificing all the medium and long-term gains amid fear of short-term disruption. Do you see what I’m saying?
“And that fear of short-term disruption has become so huge in people’s minds that they’re turning them all wet. Project Fear is really working on them. They’re terrified of this nonsense. It’s all mumbo jumbo.”
“The risk is that it will not be the [Brexit] we want and the risk is that we will end up in a sort of ante-room of the EU, with an orbit around the EU, in a customs union and to a large extent in the single market. So not really having full freedom on our trade policy, our tariffs schedules, and not having freedom with our regulatory framework either, in the lunar pull of the EU.
“What they are trying to do is do a Brexit that does as little change as possible and that keeps us basically in the same orbital pull … and that would be the worst of both worlds.”
Leading from the rear was Captain Mainwaring, bravely karate-chopping away all comers. First he saw off Hilary Benn. It wasn’t true that Michel Barnier had rejected the government’s idiotic Northern Ireland Brexit backstop plan as idiotic. What Barnier had actually done was to say he would reject the idiotic backstop plan as idiotic in a week or so’s time when the EU council next met.
Mainwaring smiled to himself, thrilled at the brilliance of his own logic. A few of the sharper minds in the house started sobbing. Jacob Rees-Mogg made a mental note to transfer the administration of more of his trust funds to Ireland. Keir Starmer then chose to take one for the country. Observing that the Brexit secretary had threatened to resign more often than he had met with Barnier over the last six months, he asked for clarification over the meaningful vote. Who was going to win? Dominic Grieve or the solicitor general?
“The solicitor general,” said Mainwaring confidently. It was vital for the sovereignty of parliament that parliament should not be sovereign. You couldn’t risk this taking back control business falling into the wrong hands.
Starmer ran the same question by the minister again. This time Mainwaring gave an entirely different answer. He had no idea what was going to be in the amendment that was due to be tabled later in the afternoon, so everyone would have to wait and see. A self-satisfied nod. He hadn’t got where he was today by knowing what he was doing.